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An air of mystery surrounds BOOTS, a shroud around who he is and what he has in store as an artist. Hell, he's literally shrouded on the album cover to his solo full-length debut, AQUARIA. Whether the mystery is a marketing tactic à la The Weeknd (remember that?), or he really is just that private, BOOTS doesn't seem to be making a huge public to do over this release. Despite this, AQUARIA plays like it was created by someone who takes what they do very seriously. On the heels of working with the likes of Beyoncé, Run the Jewels, and FKA Twigs, BOOTS is in some rarified air as a producer. But it seems he's not content just realizing other artists' visions. He's got a statement of his own to make, and he's taking his time with it.

Throughout AQUARIA, BOOTS works through a tribal-industrial world-building exercise that recalls Beck's vocal styling, Thom Yorke's moodiness, and Prince's sex drive. Nowhere is this dynamic more apparent than on the title track, which practically smells like twitchy, post-apocalyptic sex. This is the overriding aesthetic of AQUARIA; a world gone mad under the weight of its own destructive lack of self-awareness. The album opens with static on 'Brooklyn Gamma': "it ain't as good as it gets / when you've got holes all over your chest," BOOTS asserts, with a galloping hi-hat and ghoulish backing vocals behind him, creating an otherworldly urgency. Most of the early tracks exist in that same space. 'C.U.R.E.' points out, "come on everybody there's cash in the rat trap," and 'Bombs Away' evokes "a black hole for your romance."

Despite its depth of ideas and imagery, AQUARIA starts to feel a little thematically one-dimensional until you get to 'Only', a straight ahead piano-driven, introspective slow jam. On 'Only', BOOTS admits some personal responsibility for the world in which he's found himself, and yearns for change from within: "You are the only one alive / that is the only thing I know." As soon as he's gotten that off his chest, he's straight into 'Dead Comes Running', returning back to his signature distorted vocals and twisted metaphors like "wolf with a meat purse" and "ghost in a tarpit". Try as he might, BOOTS still can't escape his world, or himself.

But 'Still' rounds on the eleven-track album on another delicate note. "They'll keep pulling off your wings," BOOTS warns. A world full of greed, over-sexed and on the verge of collapse, slowly begins to come to terms with what it's become. The dust begins to settle, and we are left in the quiet with just some trembling guitar, an ethereal whitewash of voices, and our own thoughts. The noise holds us together, but stripping it away, we see our world more clearly.

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